NC State seniors Jamelle Eugene, a tailback, and Clem Johnson, a safety, talked about the mental state of the NC State team following their 49-28 loss to Duke at Carter-Finley Stadium Saturday night.
Click on the links to listen to their press conferences:
Clem Johnson transcribed:
Are there things that you guys can fix in the secondary?
"It's getting a better grasp of where we are supposed to be, and executing what the coaches want us to do. A lot of the guys have a good understanding of the schemes and the plays called, but I think we just need to have a better grasp of what we are supposed to do. If we have a better grasp, then we can put ourselves in better situations."
How do you get a better grasp, by studying more?
"Exactly. Just study more, watch film and spend more time in film room, studying more and asking more questions."
Do you feel like you have improved each week since coming back from your injury?
"I think so, but I'm not exactly where I want to be and where I need to be to contribute and play my role. Yes, I think grade-wise, I have been improving, but I want to make bigger steps, make bigger strides. We are going to start today, just like I said, by spending more time with the film and practice-wise, this whole week working hard. Just playing our role."
What has been the problem getting people tackled?
"This whole year, we've been kind of inconsistent when it comes to tackling. In my opinion, tackling is just wanting [it]. If you want to tackle, you are going out there and tackle. Sure, there is technique involved, but it comes to a want [to]. I think guys just really had high expectations for the season, and just expected, guys just expected to really have things given to them. We really have to start earning the respect, and going out there and proving that we can tackle and proving that we can get the job done."
Are younger guys trying to do things outside of the framework of the defense?
"I can't say so because the coaches are putting guys on the field that will get the job done. That is proven in practice. They are getting the job done in practice. The coaches are expecting that to transfer to game time. It just happens that we haven't gotten it done the past couple of weeks. With that said, that doesn't mean we can't go out against Boston College and get the job done and be perfect. Being perfect sounds tough, but that doesn't mean we aren't striving for perfection every week."
What do you expect from Boston College?
"We can expect them to attack where we are struggling at, and that is the secondary. So, that is where we are focused on this week to get better."
How much safety did you play before arriving at NC State?
"At Valley Forge, toward the end of my second season, I played cornerback, but pretty much every time I was in, I played man-to-man. My senior year at Carlisle, I played safety the whole year. Prior to that, I was a cornerback, linebacker [and quarterback]."
How hard has it been with the secondary going through different starters because of injuries or ineffective play?
"Obviously, it's extremely important [to have communication]. With the flip-flopping and the changing positions, it was kind of tough to get into a rhythm. The coaches are trying to get a good feel and what guys can do with different individuals out there on the field. There was a lot of negatives last Saturday, but I think there was a lot of positives out there. With me and Bobby Floyd, we are getting chemistry going on. Us being the older guys, we are taking it upon ourselves to get more leadership going on. Yeah, we missed tackles but I definitely think there was some positives out there."
Was the loss tougher to swallow because it happened to a nearby rival like Duke?
"It was tougher to swallow, I'm not going to lie, but perception is not always reality. Duke, they seemed to struggle a lot in the past, but they are becoming a better team. They proved that on Saturday. Although, we didn't play our best, we have to give them credit. They came ready to play."
What were your thoughts on Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis after watching the film?
"He pretty much took what we gave him. He wasn't trying to do too much. He played within the scheme of the offense, I think. He knew our weaknesses. He pretty much was just dinking and dunking his passes, and let his receivers do the rest."
Do you see any confidence issues heading into the BC game, and if so, how do you turn it around?
"Obviously, after the game, a lot of the guys were disappointed. The coach came in there and talked to us after the game. His reaction to the loss really helped up. He was disappointed, obviously, but he kept his cool. That is the thing about Coach O'Brien. He kept his cool and that allowed to realize that we have a second half of the season to go, and we can still turn this thing around, just like what we did last year. That is what we are focused on. We are focused on day-by-day and game-by-game."
What would you say to the fans that are frustrated?
"What would I say to them? We are kind of in the same situation we were in last year. If you are on the boat, that is a good thing. We'll definitely will keep fighting and turn this season around."
You've been around through good times and bad times. How does this one seem compared to low points last year?
"I think a lot of guys are eager for Tuesday to start. Just for the simple fact, it seems like a lot of people just lost faith in us. It just kind of motivates guys to work harder. We realize that yeah, we lost to Duke, but we still have a chance to turn this season around. There is still a lot of time left."
Do you try and set the tone for the week?
"Definitely. A lot of the younger guys are going to look up to the older guys and see how we react in this situation. If they see us keeping our heads high, then they'll definitely see there is an opportunity for us to do good things here in the middle of the season."
Are there people jumping off the bandwagon?
"In this situation, you can expect that. We hear a lot of the fans at the end of the game that say certain things. I mean, it wasn't pretty. That is how it goes when things are down. People tend to hop off the boat. When things are going good [they are on the boat]."
Do the fair-weather fans motivate you guys?
"We try not to play into it too much. It's hard to kind of ignore them. We have too much to focus on right now, especially in this situation."
Any fans say something particularly bad?
"I can't really recall that. It wasn't really pretty. I was focusing in on getting to the locker room to tell you the truth."
Can you not recall it or can't repeat it?
"A little bit of both."
Jamelle Eugene transcribed:
Where do you go from here?
"Basically, just time to move on and start the season anew, and just take each game at a time, and try to win them."
How is the attitude of the team?
"A lot of guys are putting it behind them. Some guys are taking it a little bit more to heart. That is their motivation for the next week. We just let them do what they have to do. As far as that goes, the guys that put it behind them, hopefully, they improve their games and step up, come to the next weekend and get a victory."
Does bouncing back from slow starts the last two years help at all?
"Mentally, it does. It lets us know that we can overcome certain situations. We've done it before. We put ourselves in good situations. At this point in the season, we are starting off better than we have the previous two. If we come out and show that we can make it a second season, and do the things we have done in the past and finish strong, we can have a successful season."
Any confidence issues at this point in the season?
"We have a lot of young guys, so they haven't matured enough to understand that concept. They just go into each week and see it as a new game, a new opportunity. That's good for the team."
Did it surprise you that Duke played so well?
"I think as far as being surprised, I think we knew Duke would come and play tough. Duke, this isn't the old Duke team where people just run all over them, and never get a fight. This is a new Duke team, and the coach has them looking good and having a lot of confidence in that locker room. We knew they were going to come out and fight, and we didn't expect them to score as many points. They had some assistance on special teams and played a good overall game. They just out-played us and were the better team on Saturday."
Did Duke change in the second half to prevent you guys from scoring an offensive touchdown?
"It was pretty much the same thing that they had been doing the whole game. They just had the momentum on their side and carried it."
Do you think the offense had to match it every time to keep up with Duke?
"We felt coming into the game, we had to put up points regardless. That is our mindset every week that we have to match a score with a touchdown or no score with a touchdown. That's pressure we put on ourselves from the get-go, and in the second half, things just didn't go our way."
Is this a week where you and the other seniors have to set the tone?
"I believe so, but at the same time, I think everybody know what is at stake. The season isn't lost, especially in the ACC with everybody beating each other up. The champ might end up losing three games. We have a lot of young guys that have confidence, and the seniors know it's the last go-around. We know we have to step up and make plays. Practice will probably be more rowdy than usual. That's pretty much from the senior's standpoint. We need to keep pushing it and make practices hard, so the games will be easier."
Do people look at things differently now because you lost to Duke?
"Oh yeah, I believe so."
In what ways?
"In a negative aspect. They probably don't look at us as probably making a bowl, or as being a top contender. After we lost to South Carolina, it was 'OK, South Carolina is probably a pretty good team, and [coach] Steve Spurrier has them heading in the right direction.' That was a tough loss in week one. Now, after Duke, who isn't perceived as highly as teams, and now teams won't give us as much respect anymore. That is the hole that we dug ourselves in. That is how football is."
Is it a pride issue now?
"You have to because we have to pick ourselves up and win football games, and know that there still is a prize at the end of the season. The season isn't lost. It is still early, and things can happen. We have to turn this negative into a positive. We have to pick up the pace and get things headed in the right direction."